Eminently fair and gracious and typically thoughtful

by John Holbo on January 21, 2008

Goldberg excerpts an “eminently fair and gracious and typically thoughtful” Weekly Standard review of his book. I’ll excerpt the excerpt:

Perhaps Goldberg has rehabilitated fascism a bit too much, in hopes of blunting the visceral and unreflective, but inevitable, liberal rejection of his unwelcome parallels. Goldberg goes out of his way to offer exoneration to liberals by reference to their good intentions. On the one hand, he makes clear the totalitarian temptation of liberal fascism: Hillary Clinton’s “politics of meaning” speech, for example, “is in many respects the most thoroughly totalitarian conception of politics offered by a leading American political figure in the last half century.” But he is quick to add that “Hillary is no Führer, and her notion of ‘the common good’ doesn’t involve racial purity or concentration camps. .  .  . When I say that Hillary Clinton’s ideas in general are fascist, I must again be clear that they are not evil.”

This effort at balance and reasonableness may, in part, be designed to set him and the book’s inflammatory title apart from the sensational, sales-oriented polemics of other conservative bestsellers of recent years.

Yes, it does seem a pity that, merely for the sake of blunting unreflective responses, Goldberg drew back from claiming that Hillary is Adolph himself. “Hillary is no Führer, and her notion of ‘the common good’ doesn’t involve involves racial purity or concentration camps.”

Now can we get back to the serious business of admitting each side probably has a point? One side says that fascism was an anti-liberal, right-wing political ideology. The other says that Hillary Clinton is Adolph Hitler. Goldberg, bending over backwards to exonerate liberals, is somewhere in the middle. Can’t we all just get along?

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johnston 01.21.08 at 2:33 am

He’s judicious, this Goldberg.


Kieran Healy 01.21.08 at 2:43 am

Well, the other day John Yoo was comparing himself to Abraham Lincoln, so I’m sure it all balances out.


airth10 01.21.08 at 2:45 am

Fascism is an over used and worn out analogy. It doesn’t even apply to Hillary Clinton. The author, who should grow up, just uses the term to emphasize his dislike for her.


ed 01.21.08 at 3:02 am

I’ve always considered the Weekly Standard to be solely driven by far right-wing ideology. Imagine my joyful surprise to learn that they provided an “eminently fair and gracious and typically thoughtful” review of Mr. Goldberg’s book. Huzzah!

And kudos to Mr. Goldberg, a shorter version of whom might read: “Hillary Clinton is like [Adolf] Hitler, but not in an entirely evil sense. Not entirely.”


John 01.21.08 at 3:24 am

Unfortunately this kind of horse-pooh passes for serious thinking or scholarship at the NR—full of sound and fury and signifying nothing. But at the same time it is an exercise in ratcheting up the potentially dreadful applied politics of mass scapegoating.

And you left-liberals (of which I am one) at Crooked Timber will be the first to to be rounded up and shot when and if things start to get bad. Plus humanists, atheists, liberal religionists, people whose religion is not Christian.

Isnt fascism really applied hyper-masculine politics–no sissies or feminists allowed. To say nothing about multiple contexts and interpretations. You are either with us or against us. Which is essentially the politics & “culture” that the NR promote. Resist all attempts at gun control. Guns rule OK! Shoot and bomb first but never ever ask any REAL questions.

How many left-liberals are into the “culture” of guns or members of the NRA, or of the various militia groups, or subscribe to right wing so called “religion”? All of these broad groupings subscribe and link into the NR “world”-view in one way or another, and often very directly via blog interlinks and references. Much of it being the politics of hate.


John Emerson 01.21.08 at 3:50 am

What does this tell us about “The Weekly Standard”? Weren’t they supposed to be the non-stupid, housebroken conservatives?

Damn. I was being elitist again. There’s nothing a conservative hates more than an elitist snob. Forget I said anything.

Often so-called “stupid” people have sounder values than the fancy-pants intellectuals. We shouldn’t sneer at their journals of ideas.


Walt 01.21.08 at 4:38 am

Isn’t calling it a journal of ideas already sneering at them? Only elitist snobs care about that “idea” shit.


abb1 01.21.08 at 9:05 am

I can’t find her “politics of meaning” speech, but apparently this “politics of meaning” thing is something invented by rabbi Michael Lerner. Maybe he is the evil one?


abb1 01.21.08 at 9:31 am

Ah, here it is, the only place google can find.

“Thoroughly totalitarian conception of politics offered…”? Sounds kinda like the opposite of that, but of course that’s exactly what you’d expect from Goldberg…


bi 01.21.08 at 9:57 am

“Sounds kinda like the opposite of that” — abb1

“Can’t we all just get along?” — John Holbo

Well, you see, we’re all Hitlers. There’s a little Hitler in all of us. The sooner we realize this, the better.

Coming soon: the jury’s still out, not all the science is in, teach the debate, …


stostosto 01.21.08 at 10:24 am

Like I said, the question is how Goldberg sees fit to acquit liberalism of genocide, racism and KZ camps. He does defy his own facts and logic here, seemingly in order to come off as “graceous”. I think this must be put down as the effect of totalitarian liberal-fascist political correctness.


abb1 01.21.08 at 10:25 am

Yeah, ‘totalitarian’ (let alone “thoroughly totalitarian”) is totally uncalled for. On the other hand, I think it would be fair to characterize the main idea of that Clinton’s speech as ‘communitarianism’. One could argue (following Zinaida from the previous Goldberg thread) that fascism is an extreme, radical manifestation of communitarianism. So, maybe there is something to it, after all.


Ben Alpers 01.21.08 at 10:40 am

FYI, The Editors have finally weighed in on Liberal Fascism. Will this be the liberal review that finally satisfies Jonah Goldberg’s quest for serious engagement with his argument?


GreatZamfir 01.21.08 at 11:14 am

The only part of the Goldberg thesis that I thought questionable was that Hillary doesn’t appear to be old enough to be the Fuhrer himself*. But if he now says that she isn’t actually Adolf, then I guess the rest of his thesis must be true.

*or herself. Perhaps Adolf was a woman all along.


Ginger Yellow 01.21.08 at 11:45 am

The thing is, if Goldberg had been content to just call liberalism (or progressivism as he prefers) totalitarian, he wouldn’t be facing quite the deserved ridicule he is. He wouldn’t be the first person to do so. But in order to disguise the fact that his thesis is just a tired retread of Hayek, he had to go a step further and claim that fascism and progressivism have the same defining characteristics. And in order to do that, he has to ignore or define away all the things that distinguish fascism from other totalitarianisms – the cult of masculinity, extreme nationalism, the use of violence as a political tool, and racial hegemony (of course, there are exceptions to the rule). This is what makes his project seem so ridiculous to us. He’s forced to argue that liberals are as militaristic as fascists because someone once rhetorically declared a war on poverty, that internationalism is in fact a form of nationalism, and that pursuing racial equality is in fact racism.


Mrs Tilton 01.21.08 at 12:17 pm

Well, you see, we’re all Hitlers. There’s a little Hitler in all of us.

Maybe Jonah could start a songwriting collaboration with Mojo Nixon.


Grand Moff Texan 01.21.08 at 5:42 pm

It’s always amusing to see what passes for an “intellectual” on the American right.


Timothy Burke 01.21.08 at 6:16 pm

Actually, how sure are we that Hitler’s brain was not removed and kept in a jar and then implanted into Hilary, or maybe even a succession of American liberals? That’s pretty much exactly what happened in Marvel Super-Villain Team-Up #17, so it could be true. If so, Jonah Goldberg is going easy on Hitler’s brain, and that’s outrageous and offensive.


Ginger Yellow 01.21.08 at 6:38 pm

Not only that, but Jimmy Olsen travelled back in time and became Hitler’s chief military advisor. Can Barack Obama prove that he isn’t a time travelling fascist henchman?


Dave 01.21.08 at 6:44 pm

Surely all this is missing the part where Fascism has a total, callous indifference to the dignity and value of individual human life; or is that covered for Goldberg by ‘pro-choice’?


blog 01.21.08 at 6:47 pm

JG’s perversion of reason and logic is nauseating, sickening, horrifying. One is no more obligated to read him than one would be to read the rantings of a pedophile or pamphleteers for Nambla. The latter are perversions of sexulaity. JG is a perversion of reason and logic. I define fascism as evil, psychopathic, stupidity. This establishes conservatism as the real root of fascism par excellence. Isn’t it a wonder what JG’s logic can produce?


John Emerson 01.21.08 at 7:11 pm

“Fascism” is a “fighting word” for liberals — whereas for conservatives, not so much. So conservatives can play dumb when liberals get mad — “Oh, look, these supposedly-tolerant liberals can’t argue in a civilized way.”


blog 01.21.08 at 7:44 pm

As an an example of outrageous, imbecile logic masquerading as a rational argument JG’s work takes the cake. As the above example shows, its effectiveness depends upon subconscious hooks that appeal to the bestial prejudices of its intended audience. IOW, JG is a Goebbels masquerading as a scholarly author.


John Emerson 01.21.08 at 8:23 pm

Or is that covered for Goldberg by ‘pro-choice’?

On some comment thread, absolutely.


blog 01.21.08 at 8:35 pm

Meanwhile we have the glorious proto-fascistic outcomes of conservatism staring us right in the face: pre-emptive wars based on lies, mass surveillance, mass propaganda, mass suppression of the truth and perception manipulation,torture, gulag archipelagos worthy of Stalin and corpartism run rampant.


Martin G. 01.21.08 at 10:42 pm

Then, of course, there was “the Daily Show interview”:http://www.thedailyshow.com/video/index.jhtml?videoId=147884&title=jonah-goldberg It’s like driving past a traffic accident. You can’t _not_ slow down and look.


blog 01.22.08 at 12:32 am

There are many amusing ways to look at this. If JG’s contention is that liberals are fascists without the evil, does that make conservatives fascists who embrace the evil?


blog 01.22.08 at 12:49 am

Another way to look at this: those evil fascists, to the extent that there was a bit of sanity in them, had traits that mimicked liberal traits. To the extent they were rascist, ultranationalistic, ultrauthoritarian, militaristic, fuhrer worshipping, psychopathic, lying murderers, pillagers and torturers they had traits that mimicked conservative traits.


blog 01.22.08 at 1:19 am

Is the desire for world domination fascistic? I would say yes. It was characteristic of the insanity that enveloped fascist Germany and Italy. Who in the US has explicitly expressed this desire? The signatories of PNAC. Are they liberal or conservative?


Fats Durston 01.22.08 at 2:27 am

A New Book is on the horizon, my friends: the perfect antidote to Liberal Fascism. The notes–never made before with such detail or care, natch, are collected here.


fardels bear 01.22.08 at 3:13 am

Goldberg is following in the long rightwing “think” tank tradition of offering up caveats that are ignored in the main text of the book but offered up in subsequent interviews or defenses of the book as evidence that the author is being mistreated.

I think this might have started with THE BELL CURVE which has a few sentences declaring that blacks and whites are intellectual equals just before 4 consecutive chapters attempting to prove that blacks are inferior intellectually.

Goldberg is simply doing the same thing: offer a few sentences denying that liberals are fascists. Then spend a few hundred explaining that liberals ARE fascists. Then, when an interviewer or reviewer points out that Goldberg is claiming liberals are fascists, he points to the few sentences with outrage that his thesis is, of course, not so outrageous. It is a neat trick.


luci 01.22.08 at 11:58 pm

“It is a neat trick.”

Ramesh Ponunuru did the same with “Party of Death.”


e julius drivingstorm 01.23.08 at 7:15 am

If JG makes the case that liberals founded fascism, at what point did the fascists abandon the liberals? At what point do the neo-con republicans abandon the Evangelical Christians?


libarbarian 01.23.08 at 4:23 pm

But in order to disguise the fact that his thesis is just a tired retread of Hayek, he had to go a step further and claim that fascism and progressivism have the same defining characteristics.

Please do not insult Hayek by equating his views with Goldberg of “Liberal Fascism”.


bi 01.23.08 at 4:44 pm

Jeez, now libarbarian hath confused me.

Is Goldberg in the middle? Or is it really Hayek who’s in the middle?

Can the real middle please stand up?


Ginger Yellow 01.23.08 at 8:30 pm

I’m not equating the two. My point is that Goldberg realised that taking a somewhat defensible Hayekian line wouldn’t generate any interest, so he had to push it further. But he’s not bright or diligent enough to do so without descending into absurdity.


abb1 01.24.08 at 11:35 am

Given a bit of talent absurdity would’ve been okay too. But no such luck.

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